Pan Am's Turboprops Link Tweed to D.C.

Feb. 3--NEW HAVEN -- Air service to the Washington, D.C., market will return next month to Tweed New Haven Regional Airport for the first time since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Pan Am Clipper Connection, a commuter airline that bought and resurrected the name and familiar logo of commercial aviation's pioneer, will begin flights March 9 to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and other points, a Tweed official confirmed Friday.

"Quite frankly, we're thrilled that they will be providing this much-needed service," said Lawrence J. DeNardis, chairman of the Tweed New Haven Airport Authority. "This is really good news for us."

The original Pan Am -- short for Pan American World Airways -- was founded in 1927. It was a pioneer in offering trans-Atlantic and other long-haul service, but ceased operations in 1991.

The new Pan Am, operated by Boston-Maine Airways, began flying in March 2004.

Also March 9, Pan Am will begin flights between Tweed and its home base in Portsmouth, N.H.; Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., outside Boston; and Elmira, N.Y., where United Technologies Corp.'s Sikorsky Aircraft has announced plans to open a 100,000-square-foot completion plant for Black Hawk helicopters that will be built in Sikorsky's Connecticut plants.

City, airport and Pan Am officials plan to make the formal announcement at a press conference Wednesday at the airport, DeNardis said.

While a relatively small and new airline, Pan Am's arrival at Tweed alongside US Airways Express will expand Tweed's roster of destinations from one, Philadelphia, to five.

It will fly eight times a day to its four destinations, including flights to Baltimore-Washington that will leave early enough and return late enough to make it possible once again for business travelers to go to Washington, take care of business and return the same day, DeNardis said.

The service will be on 19-seat Jetstream turboprop planes, he said.

While officials are glad to have all of the new destinations, "What we are primarily interested in is the BWI" service, said DeNardis, a former member of Congress who is president emeritus of the University of New Haven. "In fact, securing air service to Baltimore-Washington has been one of our top priorities.

"We hear from people on a daily basis that they need air service to our nation's capital, so this is good news for Tweed and it's good news for our service area," DeNardis said.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. wasn't ready to celebrate just yet.

"We've had new air service before, of course," he said, referring to past efforts to initiate service, including Delta Connection service to Cincinnati, that didn't last.

"The airport has had a lot of ups and downs over the last couple of years," DeStefano said. "I hope that the current management efforts justify the significant efforts the city makes in supporting the airport."

Pan Am officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the new service.

East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr., in whose town much of the New Haven-owned regionally operated airport is located, said he was pleased to hear there will be additional service and destinations.

"Hey, I'm glad they're coming back," he said of flights to the Washington area, although Maturo pointed out that one problem with the former service was that it was too expensive. He said he hopes that this time, the fares will be competitive.

"I'm happy for the airport," said Maturo, who has strongly opposed efforts to expand Tweed physically and to make safety improvements that opponents fear ultimately could end up being expanded runways.

"My administration was never opposed to the flights in and out of the airport," Maturo said. "We're just opposed to expanding the airport beyond its current boundaries."

DeNardis said Tweed is close to putting together an advertising campaign to market the new service, in addition to anything Pan Am might do on its own.

He said that "everyday fares can vary," but he believed Pan Am is planning to have a target ticket price of about $150 each way, although it is expected to offer an introductory sale that will drop those prices as low as $99 each way.

US Airways Express has been Tweed's only airline for most of the time since 1996, when three other airlines pulled out. From 2004 to early 2006, Delta Connection offered flights to and from Cincinnati.

In addition to the Philadelphia flights, US Airways flew between Tweed and Washington's Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport until aviation was temporarily suspended there after Sept. 11, 2001. When Reagan National flights resumed a few months later, Tweed was no longer on US Airways' Washington schedule.

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